MarcellaCovault Yeah! Behold - "A NEW FAITH IS RISING, NEW RELIGION! SUCUMB TO THE TRUTH OF THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD!". Hehehe!
Scientists Declare: Nonhuman Animals Are Conscious
Science leaders have reached a critical consensus: Humans are not the only conscious beings; other animals, specifically mammals and birds, are indeed conscious, too.
It may have seemed obvious to you and me that Fluffy and Fido are aware of their own existence and are not simply biological machines. You may also take it for granted, when you stare into the eyes of a chimpanzee, that you're seeing a self-aware being. And that when the whale you helped to free from being tangled in fishing gear proceeded to swim around the boat giving you high fives, she was saying thank-you. But scientists (especially those who make money through experimenting on captive animals) have been very cautious in coming to this conclusion.
Finally, however, the official decision was reached in late night discussions two weeks ago during the prestigious annual Francis Crick Memorial Conference. This year's conference was entitled "Consciousness in Human and Nonhuman Animals" and included presentations by neuroscientists and experts in the fields of marine mammals, birds and cephalopods (octopus etc.). The conference issued this announcement:
The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness in Non-Human Animals was publicly proclaimed in Cambridge, UK, on July 7, 2012, at the conclusion of the Conference, at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, by Philip Low, David Edelman and Christof Koch. ... The Declaration was signed by the conference participants that very evening, in the presence of Stephen Hawking, in the Balfour Room at the Hotel du Vin in Cambridge, UK. The signing ceremony was memorialized by CBS 60 Minutes.
The group didn't attempt to define what consciousness actually is. That's a very complex questions and no one really has a clue. But the full declaration includes statements like:
Birds appear to offer, in their behavior, neurophysiology, and neuroanatomy a striking case of parallel evolution of consciousness. Evidence of near human-like levels of consciousness has been most dramatically observed in African grey parrots. Mammalian and avian emotional networks and cognitive microcircuitries appear to be far more homologous than previously thought. Moreover, certain species of birds have been found to exhibit neural sleep patterns similar to those of mammals, including REM sleep and, as was demonstrated in zebra finches, neurophysiological patterns, previously thought to require a mammalian neocortex. Magpies in particular have been shown to exhibit striking similarities to humans, great apes, dolphins, and elephants in studies of mirror self-recognition.
... The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.
So, is this something more than a bunch of theoreticians telling us what we already know? Yes. It's a really important statement that will be used as evidence by those who are pushing for scientists to develop a more humane relationship with animals. It's harder, for example, to justify experiments on nonhumans when you know that they are conscious beings and not just biological machines.
Some of the conclusions reached in this declaration are the product of scientists who, to this day, still conduct experiments on animals in captivity, including dolphins, who are among the most intelligent species on Earth. Their own declaration will now be used as evidence that it's time to stop using these animals in captivity and start finding new ways of making a living.
Read the full declaration here.
CindyLudwig michaelmountain With all due respect. I don't see how experience in the social role of a "scientist" can give anybodys arguments more value that those who are not dubbed scientists. Scientists are our modern "shamans" - we got that - ok? But it means nothing, it doesn't make the "non scientist" guys brainless. On the other hand one can be a carpenter for 50 years and still not get the essence of what the carpenter work is about. Actualy one may have 50 years of experience as a "scientist and experimenter" and in fact have 50 years of experience in consolidating and reproducing the prejudices and dogmas of his profession that were thansmitted to him.
MarcellaCovault We are living in an era of scientific dictators, owners of "what things are". They are putting us in the position that if we see 5 fingers in each of our hand but we haven't used the "scientific method" to discover that, then our knowledge is completely wrong and biased. So we must ask a renowned scientist to "execute" a "valid" "study" of the "phenomena" of having fingers in order to be sure. And we should always have in mind that science is science because it is questionable... but that is not cool for the social status of the "scientist" role so Bachelard or other guys can be considered "philosophers" aka "bablers" and be put in some dusty cabinet. So basicaly a group of convenience oriented scientists are constantly attacking our perception and knowledge therefore transfering power from us to them... Just think of all the FDA and other technocratic and anti-democratic organizations. One thing that amazes me is how people forget about all the scientists that concluded in their studies animal experimentation is dangerous, on one side, and unethical, on the other. Also how can people forget about Barry Marshall or Jack Barnes, people that made discoveries without torturing animals, which is what animal experiments are when all the fancy clothes are stripped and the undenieable appears.
MarcHutton Animals can and do do communicate. As always the problem we have is that we expect other living beings to adapt to our expectations which is hillarious because a monkey is a monkey and a dog is a dog, a homo sapiens sapiens is a homo sapiens sapiens. Of course when we tune our minds into interpreting the behaviour of other living beings correctly and according to the logic of their own existence and structure, we start understanding it and we become capable of realising how rich and complete their experience of life is.... and that, for me, is the most important thing regarding the respect of animal rights.
MarcellaCovault Yeah! Behold - "A NEW FAITH IS RISING, NEW RELIGION! SUCUMB TO THE TRUTH OF THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD!". Hehehe!
TedFontenot And science isn't an ideology? There isn0't such thing as being neutral - as a sociologist once said - being neutral is letting things go as they are and if you watch how one man kills another and do nothing then you will be taken to court aside the murderer, thats not something random... Science is a human cultural creation and is subject to the same scrutiny as any other human activity. Ethics is the way to question and study other human cultural creations and institutions.
LoriMarino MarcHutton LoriMarino MarcHutton Hello! People take personal opinion/prejudices and ethical reasoning/search for Justice as one and same thing. That is very convinient for demagogs... But it is one thing to say "I don't like animal experiments, they disgust me". It is a completely different thing to say "Animal experiments are wrong, because it is proven animals feel, desire and are autonomous and innocent beings. They have done nothing to deserve enduring torture..." and I can keep providing rational arguments based on observation and this can easily be defined as a neutral process, I am not doing it in search of some benefit for my self or my family. Actualy defendants of animal experiments have lot to worry about in concerning their neutrality, since the prime beneficiaries of animal experiments are them and their peoples. So what? Continuing: animal experimentation is a tabu because the "scientific method should be silent on ethics". Same logic: Slavery is a tabu because "the process of production and work should be silent on ethics...". Silently we are getting under a dictature of the "ethicaly neutral ought to be". What the hell? Everything is ethics and ethics are more important and should be more important than "Science", as long as one is spirit, the latter is matter, the first is superior, the second is inferior. The conclusion related to the article we are discussing is that if there isn't to be ethical consequences from the declaration in question then what is there to be? Wasted paper? Scientists practicing their writing? It is about time that they finaly admit what they have been avoiding to admit for centuries, unwilling to put in danger what they perceived to be their "divine right and only instrument of getting knowledge"...
I'm amazed it took these morons so long to figure out what most of us have known from birth. The human virus is the lowest life form on the planet, just because of how they pick and chose what it's OK to be cruel to. We are not meant to eat animals, yet we kill them by the BILLIONS in the food industry of America, alone. We go out and hunt animals for fun and excitment. I could go on and on, but it all falls down to this being a start. Hopefully the world will blow up soon because these poor souls are dying by the second. :-(
JohannSantos Aren't phisosophical questions, questions of most grave social importance? Don't these questions have practical and real consequences and don't they cover reality and objective facts? Why is it scientific to ignore ethics? Why should science be more important than ethics? Just because it was socialy established/institued that way?
MarcHutton Hello MarcHutton. I don't think there is too much to think about. If you find theres an unsolvable conflict between science and ethics maybe you are seing things from a biased angle. Science can be done respecting animals and humans rights, and you don't stop being a scientists just because you stop experimenting on animals. Besides that principles, whether epistemological (which are quite ethical in essence as I see things), whether ontological, are always reviewable and questionable. So theres nothing wrong in questioning the validity (ethical and epistemological) of animal experiments. I think theres no doubt, though that ethics are more important than the mere cold study and testing of biological or chemical hypothesis. Also, before being a scientist you are a human being... All best
JohannSantosIf you drop out any possible ethical concerns and their eventual validity and importance you are opening a way for me to do anything I like with you and don't worry about whether thats right or wrong, whether that makes me honourable or disgusting, valuable or a simple parasite. So in such case I can steal from you and beat you and that is alright... Well, if you say "Wait!" - "I am a human being, I have feelings and a will of my own - I desire freedom, integrity and dignity, I deserve to be respected, I haven't done anything wrong to you!". I will accept that because there are three things in me that allow me to have such an attitude: reason, compassion and a strong will for carrying out a superior way of existence based on respect and inner strength (that is dominating my impulses and prejudices instead of letting these take over my mind and behaviour). Well, if you are entitled to say the above and be respected, then other living beings are too. Why? Because there is much more you have in common with them, than you have been CULTURALY made to see and believe. The process of freeing your mind is also, in many aspects, a fight against your socialization. People in the middle ages in Europe would be imposed from childhood the "truth" that old women with black cats are witches. Soon enough the so socialized youngsters would burn "witches". You and me have been taught to ignore animals consciousness, and believe me if you stop being stubborn you will see there are little reasons to state that the term "consciousness" is so ill-defined. The truth is the characteristics distinguishing you from another living being are circunstantial, relative, and in the overall picture - insignificant... And in the end I don't respect you because you can speak english, gesticulate in a way I was taught to interpret, or because you look very much like me. I respect you because you bleed, you feel pain and just like me that is not what you, as a sane living being, desire. Life is a creative force and principle (call it what you wan't), and when concerns about whether what we do is right or wrong, ethicaly valid or not, it is a matter of preserving life and what underlies it - such concerns are inborn! If there are no rules, no empathy, compassion, respect, a will for the construction of a greater good, then none of us will be able to live properly. The "Wild West" would look like a paradise compared to such a situation. The need to experiment on life forms is not paramount because otherwise the need to rob, kill and rape would be paramount too. We detect something really stinky in all these behaviours and through reasoning we explore the issue... Why should, on the other hand, be "Human comfort and welfare" the "trumps" in this "game" (with very serious consequences though)? There is alot of demagogy in statements relating, inevitably, human welfare and "progress" (both truly ill-defined concepts that can mean different things for different people) with animal exploitation and experiments, because as LoriMarino says there are enough alternatives to animal experimentation, for example, not to mention meat consumption and hunting. In the end who says it is better living without the best values we can come to than it is to live with the "best" scientific results we can obtain through animal and human experimentation (see Andrew Knight or others scientists who reasonably show animal experiments can be largely unproductive - see also http://www.mrmcmed.org/Critical_Look.pdf ) - because yeah! - we could even experiment on people with severe pshychic problems because one would say they are less aware than a snail! But what drives science is the value of truth and not the pseudo value of convinience, and what happens to animals or humans matters even if they are a minority or in a weak social position, or even if they cannot express their will in a proper understandable by an everyday human being language. What drives ethics as a science in its own right is truth too...Don't forget that the victory of the possibility of science is first of all the victory of the freedom of ethics - the Holy Inquisition wouldn't allow anything opposing its doctrine, its "truth". Science owes its existence to the search of an ethical freedom, and if not a Mother then the science of ethics is the one that created the conditions for other sciences to come true. So science without ethical concerns as its primary concerns isn't right. Such is my opinion though and I might be wrong. I don't want to take anymore of your time JohannSantos, and I strongly recommend confronting your opinion with the works of Tom Regan, for example, who I believe is the most credible animal rights philosopher I know about. All best
When science and the law regarding animals start working together, THAT is when an ethical conclusion can be made, in my opinion.
I am Lori Marino, Science Advisor for Earth in Transition, and neuroscientist for the past twenty years. I also co-authored a paper on dolphin mirror self-recognition with one of the signatories of the Declaration, Diana Reiss. With that said, I find this to be a very interesting and complicated discussion and applaud everyone for their input. There are a number of different threads in the overall conversation and I'll try to pick up on some of them here. First, the notion that everything that is obvious is real doesn't really hold. Science is in the business of using a particular method to test a specific set of hypotheses. Sometimes those hypotheses are really obscure and other times they are so obvious that you want to say... duh! Nevertheless, a scientific demonstration provides a certain level of credibility and objectivity to a belief that can't be beat! There are lots of things in life that are obvious but absolutely wrong. Many perceptions are obvious but biased by our own beliefs. So we should not be picking on the scientific method. Its the best tool we have to answer questions in an objective manner. Now, given all this, I understand why there is such controversy over this "Declaration". Not only does it appear rather like the scientists are saying something we already knew... but the fact is that we've had the scientific data for a while now - not just our own observations. So, to draw a conclusion like this at this point and in a way that makes it sound like some kind of decree or proclamation is perhaps a sign of the hubris of our species over anything else. What concerns me more about the Declaration is the fact that it is devoid of any ethical dimensions. It is not enough to make such a declaration without considering the consequences of that knowledge. DanFouts mentioned that we NEED to do research on animals (and other humans). In fact, that very need is a cultural illusion. A very small percentage of research on other animals has led to real health benefits for humans. We just keep doing it because "that is what we do". But even if it did have tremendous benefits, that would not make it ethical or moral to do so. Biomedical research on other humans would actually be more effective than on other species but no one would advocate that - and rightly so! We do not have a need to do anything. Animal research is a part of our culture because we have set up our scientific enterprise to rely upon it. If we decide to make a change, we can. There a lot of alternatives to research on other animals. So, what disturbs me most about this Declaration perhaps is the fact that there is no ethical conclusion. If these kinds of conclusions do not provide a motivation to change our behavior, are they especially important?
What is it with people on here questioning the scientific method? Assumptions are at the start of science, not the conclusion.
As a vegetarian for over 30 years I do believe that a very small amount of testing on animals has been necessary, like for medical research ect but it is mostly unnecessary and un-test worthy. What these poor animals in this article have gone through just to see if they are 'conscious beings' ffs, cruelly tested on by unconscious inhuman beings that unnecessarily put different species through hell....for what?! And are then destroyed by them. It obvious that animals are a far better than the human race could ever dream of being!!
I hope this is serious science and not speculation ramrodded by ideology of the moral and ethical variety. Many lay people are suspicious of science as it is. We don't need to be overreaching simply because our biases make us badly want it to be so.
Sorry, but as I do agree we should be careful about how and what we do experiments on, I am not about to say we can't do experiments on a creature because it is conscious. Not only do we NEED to experiment on non-human, but also on humans as well... this indeed is how we objectively verify and produce learning and knowledge to better our understanding how to work with our world. I am not advocating cruel treatment, only an understand that certain degrees of experiments must take certain forms we don't really like, and I am 100% for the idea of new ways of objectively learning that don't hurt any creatures. I am glad the scientific academia has more or less objectively establish an important degree of understanding about certain aspects of consciousness, and I don't think anyone here doesn't understand how that was established; by experimenting on animals.
The commenters here obviously lack a basic understanding of how science is conducted. While it may, as they have declared, seem obvious that animals have consciousness science is not based on personal and biased declarations and observations. Science requires that nonbiased repeatable empirical observations and experiments be conducted and the results analyzed before drawing a conclusion. This means that the data must be able to demonstrate the fact exists dispite the observers desire for it to exist. For someone to claim that they are educated in science to then say it is a "matter of common sense" is to demonstrate that they are not truly educated in the scientific method and quite frankly do not know what they are talking about. As a scientist and researcher myself I appritiate the fact that this conclusion has only been reach via hard work and by making sure all of the arguments counter to this conclusion have been addressed as any real scientist should.
A few points. First:, both the article and plenty of research points out that the definition of consciousness is vague and undetermined. Second, for those who think that this was an obvious answer, you've failed to understand the basics of science, which is that you must test assumptions and decrease the margin of error before saying something is a valid theory. Just because people believe something is obvious doesn't make it right. Third, though I understand the moral nature of animal rights (or the concept of rights in general), we must understand that not all experiments on animals are cruel. Perhaps more importantly, humans are superior to all other life on this planet. That's not based on quality or quantity or even sophistication. Its based solely on the idea that every organism is from its own perspective superior. Every organism would and does naturally take advantage of its environment to fullest degree, only being kept in check by that same environment. The best credit I'd give to humans, and what might actually make us truly superior, is that our consciousness has granted us the ability to keep ourselves in check. I know many of you will say that we have failed to do so, but that's only because its hard to see within a single lifespan.
Really? And these "scientists" are PAID to come to an obvious conclusion? How absurd. Of course, animals have consciousness. That has not been disavowed in western society in many decades. However, that doesn't mean they have the conscience or social ability to be the dominant species on the planet (Mother Nature's mighty power notwithstanding). If humans don't quit wholesale slaughtering or imprisoning or beating down each other in the name of some "cause" or other (including the "animal rights" sociopathic movement and the various religious wars), we will self-destruct and Mother Nature can start all over. Maybe that's worth more consideration (if we want to continue as a species) than beating the various special interest man-hating drums.
And these "scientists" are actually PAID to come to common sense conclusions? Living creatures have consciousness, but that doesn't mean they have a level of reasoning power or conscience to be the top-ranking "animal" on the planet. That requires an advanced society, although I'm beginning to wonder about whether mankind is ultimately self-destructive in his drive to dominate everything, including anyone who doesn't believe the same way as "righteous" groups. BTW, that includes the "animal rights" movement, which is basically humane society-hating.
Although its nice to now have a paper to reference, this conclusion does come under the category of 'well ... no shit Sherlock!"
Yavor TedFontenot There's always the urge to talk about something in terms that make it not worth talking about. Resist it.
RichardRobertRodriguez DavidHereaux cuz of stupid people like you richard robert rodriguez animal cruelty will still exist in 100 years. i wish you and ur fellow ignorant people would educate yourself.
@LoriMarino Not sure what conclusions you want to draw... Here are some thoughts: http://speakingofresearch.com/2012/08/23/consciousness-and-moral-status/
@LoriMarino I am not sure what ethical conclusion you want to draw... Here are my thoughts.... http://speakingofresearch.com/2012/08/23/consciousness-and-moral-status/
@LoriMarino Well said and written. I am just not sure that ethical conclusions and dimensions are in our realm as scientists. Undoubtedly I agree with you in regards to my personal feelings and this declaration has only served to reinforce something that I have felt for years. It seems to me that the application of this declaration to ethics is more in line with the relm of philosophers. I think that their presence on the ethics boards of scientific, academic and medical institutions have proven to be valuable and I hope that they would give this finding the appropriate weight when establishing and reviewing the ethical guidelines for those institutions.
@LoriMarino I'm still not sure what ethical conclusions we are suppose to draw from the term consciousness when the term is so ill-defined. I still believe that we need to create ethical standards, but in many respects, those ethics are culturally based. The lack of ethics has the potential to allow for huge leaps in science. If we didn't have such standards, the amount of knowledge we could glean from human experimentation (for instance) would be vast. However, we have strong cultural values that restrict us from doing so.
@MarcHutton You make false assumptions, Mr. Scientist. Some of us apply what we know about science - and others, like yourself should just stay in the lab away from people.
That's right, denigrate the commenters. Does it make you feel superior? Scientific method? Yup, know that, understand it, applied it in college and in the outside world. Not all scientific studies are cutting edge and worth the money spent to conduct them.
@JohannSantos While I maintain a commitment to animal rights, no animal testing, and vegetarianism, this is one of the most logical and reasonable explanations for humans treating the animals as they do. Nicely put.
@MariAV1 You are probably one of the POS' harming them. Why do you insult people about something you obviously know nothing about under a fake name. Come out of your closet you ugly troll.
@MarcHutton @LoriMarino I think that the traditional view of science is that it should be silent on ethics. Certainly the scientific method should be silent on ethics. No matter what the opinions of the investigator he or she has the responsibility to do rigorous objective research. And the peer review system helps ensure that research is on the up and up. However, the idea that scientists should never engage in ethical discussion is not realistic and not a very good idea. After all, who knows more about their subjects than the scientists who study them? We cannot afford to NOT hear from the scientists anymore. There are too many troubles in the world. Wouldn't you agree?
@MarcHutton @LoriMarino I don't think science should have a say about ethics, or at least not until someone makes a proper theory of it. That is not to suggest that individuals or organizations shouldn't develop ethical standards, but as you put it, those are (currently) philosophical questions.
@LoriMarino Also, the need to do experiments on life forms is paramount. The question isn't whether the experiments are needed, but instead which ones are most useful and which ones are we comfortable with doing (in light of our ethical standards)
@CindyLudwig @MarcHutton You're not really making an argument, or really saying anything...What are these false assumptions, and what do you know of science? Why do you want him in the lab at all if you supposedly think he is a bad scientist? I don't understand how anyone can question the scientific method and call themselves a scientist.
@MarcellaCovault I don't see how marc was denigrating anyone. He made a concise point that science has a method and everyone who said that this is old news because its obvious are not thinking critically. Perhaps the only thing worse than people making stuff up / believing what they want to believe is people pretending that they are doing science or people thinking they are doing science when they are not. Some people might think its obvious that inanimate objects have souls and consciousness, but we don't just believe them because they thinks its obvious.
@LoriMarino @MarcHutton Until their is a solid theory of ethics, its in the realm of philosophy. That being said, the inclusion of philosophers in the scientific discussion is really important. There are a number I like, but perhaps one of my favorites is Dan Dennett. Though he is largely involved in the Skepticism/Atheism/Humanist/Bright movement, much of what he says talks a lot about ethics. He also has a great understanding of science and is able to draw important lines between science and philosophy.
@JohannSantos @CindyLudwig Johann understands what I was getting at perfectly. I am a PhD chemist, when I conduct an experiment it is relatively easy for me to determine the outcome especially when we have spectroscopy and NMRs. We can not read minds, so it is not possible to do a "Valcun mind meld" and declare that an animal is conscious. I have the up most respect for these researchers because the experiments that had to be devised and conducted are probably some of the most difficult in science. To devise an experiment that is truly unbiased and gives a true insight into the mind of another creature that can not communicate is extremly difficult because you have to try to elimate any chances of experimentalist influence and any harm to the test subject. These studies are the biological equivalent of partical physics and are well worth any funding the receive. I made no false assumptions, I made my comments based what was written and if you feel that you didn't express yourself sufficiently to avoid any "false asummptions" that lies completely and squarely on your shoulders now doesn't it.